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European Union (Withdrawal) Acts

Part of Prime Minister’s Statement – in the House of Commons at 12:11 pm on 19th October 2019.

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Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 12:11 pm, 19th October 2019

Today, we meet on a Saturday for the first time in 37 years, with huge decisions before us this afternoon. Those decisions are not just about whether this deal gets over the line, and getting Brexit done, but about what it means for our country. There has been a lot of attention on how the deal operates in Northern Ireland, and rightly so, but that should not be allowed to mask the political project that is driving this deal. That is why Labour has focused on the political declaration, and any examination of the detail of that political declaration reveals its true purpose and the intent of the deal.

No customs union—that strikes at the heart of our manufacturing sector. Once in the doldrums, decimated by Prime Minister Thatcher—[Interruption.] Mr Speaker, my dad was a toolmaker. He worked in a factory all his life in manufacturing, and we lived through those doldrums. That is why when I go to a factory or plant I am proud, for myself and for my father, when I see manufacturing through the just-in-time process and the revival that has gone on in parts of manufacturing. Go to any of those manufacturing plants, and the management and unions speak with one voice: “Do not take us out of the customs union.” This deal does just that, and it will do huge damage to manufacturing.

What of services? Nothing in this deal is different from that of the previous Prime Minister—the weakest of weak deals for services, which make up 80% of our economy. What the deal does is clear: it rips up our close trading relationship with the EU, and the price will be paid in damage to our economy and in job losses. Anyone doubting that should look at the words that have been stripped out of the deal put forward by the previous Prime Minister. Put the text side by side and ask some difficult questions.

Paragraph 20 used to read:

The Parties envisage having a trading relationship on goods that is as close as possible, with a view to facilitating the ease of legitimate trade.”

The words “as close as possible” have been stripped out. Why?

Now it is said that we want “as close as possible”. Now it is said that there are all sorts of assurances, but between the text as it was under the previous Prime Minister and the text before us today, the words

“a trading relationship on goods that is as close as possible” have been taken out and that is not an accident.